READ LUKE 9:37-50
Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48 NLT)
There he was, laying on the couch crying uncontrollable tears. He tries to speak through the sobbing and I make out these five words, “I… wanted… to… be… first!”
This was the scene yesterday as our family was getting ready to leave the house. My son was the last one ready to go, so his sister got buckled in to her car seat before he did. That’s when it erupted. It turned in to a great day, but that’s how it began.
Why is winning so important to us? We didn’t teach our son this desire to be first… he just discovered it on his own. As we grow and mature, the truth is many of us are still driven by the same desire to win. We don’t really grow out of it. Maybe we no longer throw fits on the floor, although I’ve seen the adult equivalent. It isn’t pretty. We want to win. That’s one of the reasons sports are so popular in our culture. Sports give us the opportunity to win vicariously through someone else’s actions. Why is winning so important to us?
In this text, the disciples have been arguing about who would become the greatest. Its understandable. They have just come back from their first big mission where demons were cast out and people were healed. They were just part of a huge event where 5000 people were miraculously fed. They had stories to tell… stories any of us would be proud to tell. But who was the greatest? Who would accomplish the most? Whose disciple trading card would have the best stats and sell for the most on ebay?
I think what Jesus does here is one of the most loving, yet challenging things he could do. He doesn’t chastise them or berate them for the pettiness of their argument. He simply pulls aside a child and says, “Anyone who welcomes a child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me.” Theirs is really a child’s argument, no different than my son wanting to get buckled in the car first. By pulling the child to his side and saying what he says, Jesus is essentially calling their argument what it is… childish. But he assures his “children” that God is the one accomplishing these great things in them and through them, even in their immaturity.
Jesus, however, also takes the opportunity to challenge them to move towards maturity saying, “Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples not to be great. I would actually argue that he wants them to be great… and to do great things. In just a few short words, however, Jesus redefines greatness. Greatness in the Kingdom of God comes by acknowledging that what we accomplish is not by our own strength. The things we do are to make God’s name famous, not ours. So let’s accomplish great things in the name of of great God today!